This is our story of the rigmarole of getting a Colombia visa for a South African passport. Another story about the irritating visa hassles faced travelling around the world as a South African.
The rubbish search results produced by Google compound the visa hassles. Feeding articles to the top of the search results that are years out of date. With this search the first few sites all have the incorrect embassy address ... the only official looking site is infected with a virus!
We were travelling from Panama to Colombia and concerned about the process and timing for getting a Colombian visa for a South African passport.
After much digging through the Google search results and a few phone calls we had a very diverse range of options. From “no visa required” to “it takes up to 5 working days”.
With the help of a local we found the official Embassy site. Deciphering the Spanish we found the download link to complete the application. The next issue was that there was no way to make the payment online. So a visit to the Colombian Embassy in Panama City was our only option.
With hope, and a few vague doubts, we went to Panama City on the Thursday before our planned travel on the following Tuesday.
We arrived at the Embassy early on the Friday morning … after first going to the wrong address. Cursing Google about their searches that produce meaningless historical results!
Colombian Embassy in Panama
Ushered through to the Consul’s office we met a charming and ultra-helpful consular official. He spoke fluent English and as he'd visited Pietermaritzburg in South Africa we could easily relate. He apologized for the inconvenience we had to go through. Adding that this was the result of South Africa not providing visa free access to Colombian’s visiting South Africa.
So tit for tat!
He further added that visas for South Africans had to be approved in Bogota. So the process went on all day ticking off all the regulatory boxes one by one.
The final result – a visa cost of $134, a whole day wasted and $15 for Uber’s ... just because of some South African Minister not doing his job.
South Africa has the international reputation of a deteriorating and inefficient state. It’s discouraging to have to experience this downward spiralling path.
The Consul appealed to us to approach our government to agree a reciprocal visa arrangement.
Throughout the world people are inconvenienced by government sloth. It is clear that that state employees either don’t care or are incompetent. Whatever ... it’s time it changed.
The Consul at this office is a fine example of the kind of person that gives a country a good reputation. Before you even arrive you have a positive feeling ... and they serve greta coffee!
Are South African embassies like this?
I’m a South African citizen who plans to visit Colombia soon. How long was your visa to Colombia valid for ?
It was for 90 days. Enjoy your trip – it’s one of our favourite countries … with Medellin a favourite city!
Seriously, couldn’t you have chosen a better stock photo? That slum shot doesn’t do the place any justice.
Thanks for the heads up! No Stock Photo just a not very flattering shot I took of Comuna 13 in Medellin! But I do agree I could have chosen a better one … we liked Colombia far more than that!!
When you say visas have to be approved in Bogota, does that mean, that going through Bogota is you only port of entry into Colombia?
Ie: it would not be possible to sail the san Blas islands and enter through Cartagena?
It just means that it takes time for a visa to be approved. For example, the embassy in Panama City could not issue the visa without it being approved in Bogota. So between having to get all the right papers to Bogota (2 attempts) and waiting for them to finish lunch, it took us the whole day! We were just fortunate to be dealing with an exceptionally helpful official. But even so, there was a young SA guy who had been waiting for 3 days! Once you have the visa the port of entry is no problem.
FYI, you also cannot renew the visa like other countries can with the stamp – South Africans have to apply for a whole new visa for an additional 90 days, and at the cost of $134. There is no info anywhere on the internet about this fact….
Thanks for the update Bronwyn – just another hassle and cost of travelling on a SA passport! I found getting visa information for a number of countries, like Cuba, was just about impossible. There are so many flaky sites at the top of the search results that are absolutely useless… out of date and misleading!!
i love your blog. Thank you!! I wish the future of our country could allow us to be more welcomed by other countries hassle free. Shame on these idiots!!
I agree! Travelling around the world on a South African passport certainly has its challenges!
This was so helpful. We did not think we needed a visa for Colombia (silly us). We also leave from Panama and fly to Medellín. Did you need to go to the embassy in Bogota as it says you need approval there?
Do you have any advice for the easiest and best way to go about getting our visa. We are not near Panama City either.
We had to go to the Colombian Embassy in Panama City (I don’t think there’s another office in Panama?).
Here you have to present all the documentation which is then sent to Bogota for approval. It took a few iterations as the first submission wasn’t complete.
Thanks to a very accommodating official we managed to get the visa in a day. In future, to have less stress, I would allow 2 days.
Thank you, what documents did you end up needing I can’t seem to find the exact list anywhere (well not in English at least)?
Nothing unusual. From what I remember: valid passport, application form (not sure whether I did it online or at the Consulate), photos (2?), 3 or 6 months bank statements, onward tickets and proof of accommodation (I’m not sure about the last two).
However I’d take all these and then you’ll have covered all bases.